Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). That’s a very scary sounding name for three little initials that can save your life. ICD’s are used to return the heart’s rhythm back to normal when it beats too fast and/or erratically. Your doctor may have recommended an ICD for you to protect you from a life-threatening arrhythmia. An ICD is a small device that is permanently placed inside your body; usually under the skin in the chest, but also can be in the abdomen. This device monitors your heart rhythm and will send out electrical signals if your heartbeat is too fast or too slow. If your heartbeat is too fast, the ICD may briefly shock the heart to return it to a normal rate.
The ICD may also send electrical impulses to your heart that will override the fast rate and return your heartbeat to normal. The ICD is made up of the generator, which holds the battery and monitors your heart rhythm, and the leads, which are the wires that carry your heart’s rhythm to the generator and the impulses from the generator.
The ICD is implanted through an incision in the skin below the collar bone (this is called a pocket). Wires are then threaded through a vein beneath your collarbone into the heart chambers. The risks associated with ICD implantation are very low; your doctor will discuss these with you in detail. After implant, you will be asked to limit your activity for a few days; however, after a follow up check with your doctor you should be able to return to normal activity. After your initial follow up, you will need to have routine checks of your device to make sure it is functioning properly. These can be done in the office, or in some cases they can be done from home.
Your ICD has been programmed to distinguish between fast heart rates due to physical exertion and fast heart rhythm that is life threatening. With a little care, you will be able to continue with an active, happy life, knowing that your ICD is working to protect your life. Whether you are a recent implant patient or have had your device for years, please contact one of our locations for information on our next ICD support group.
A pacemaker is small, lightweight, electronic device that is implanted in your chest to keep track of your hearts beating activity. This device has gone through many advances since it was first marketed, and the ones in use today aren't much bigger than a tin of mints!
If your heart is beating too slowly or pausing too long between beats, your pacemaker will send electrical impulses to your heart to make it beat correctly.
The most common reasons a pacemaker is needed is Sick Sinus Syndrome and Heart Block. Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS) is when a part of the heart (sinus node) does not send electrical impulses often enough or it may skip some impulses or may send too many all at once. Heart Block is when impulses are either delayed or have stopped all together.
Having a pacemaker does not have to limit your life--it enhances your life and lets you do your normal hobbies and activities. If you have, or have been recommended to have, a pacemaker, talk to your doctor and his staff about information from the manufacturer of your pacemaker. They often have literature and sometimes even support groups to help you feel comfortable living with your pacemaker.